Below you’ll find the transcript for episode 27, Defining Discipleship, from the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast.
Please note: This post contains affiliate links.
EP 27: Defining Discipleship
Welcome to the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast. I’m Cyndee Ownbey, your host and women’s ministry mentor. I’m the founder of Women’s Ministry Toolbox and the author of Rethinking Women’s Ministry. The Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast is a podcast for women’s ministry leaders and team members of all stages (from new to seasoned) serving in their local church community. If you’re looking for hope and inspiration, you’ve come to the right place! In addition to discussing the nuts and bolts of women’s ministry, I’ll be asking seasoned women’s ministry leaders to share their best tips and the lessons they’ve learned. Together we’ll learn to build a flourishing, Christ-focused women’s ministry.
This blog post is the first in a series on discipleship.
Today we’ll be looking at what the Bible says about discipleship, and we’ll look at several definitions of discipleship.
Discipleship is a huge, big, broad topic. It’s a recent buzzword in church ministry. We hadn’t heard much about discipleship until maybe five years or so ago, but women’s ministry programs have been doing mentoring for many years.
Entire books have been written about discipleship that are hundreds of pages long. In this short blog post, I want to give you a broad overview of discipleship and some things to think about as you plan your women’s ministry events and activities – how they might connect with the ongoing discipleship efforts in your church.
If you listened to episode number one, Scriptural Support for Women’s Ministry, you’re going to hear some of those same verses repeated in this episode on discipleship.
Discipleship is important to women’s ministry. It should be a part of what we are doing.
Dictionary.com defines discipleship “as the condition or situation of being a disciple, a follower, or a student of some philosophy, especially a follower of Christ.”
Now that’s a fair starting point, but what about a biblical definition of discipleship?
When we look at a Bible dictionary, we discover that disciple comes from the Greek word mathétés (math-ay-tes’), which means a learner, disciple, or pupil. It is a word we only find in the New Testament. It appears 261 times, primarily in the four gospels and the book of Acts.
While we don’t have time to cover all 261 scriptural examples of discipleship, there are six verses that I want to highlight.
What does the Bible say about discipleship?
Matthew 28:18-20 is probably the most cited passage when it comes to discipleship discussions. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
John 8:31 says, “so Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him. If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
The following three verses highlight the teaching and training that a disciple would receive.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
Titus 2:3-5 says, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
Acts 2:42 says, “and they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
That teaching and that training is to be passed on not just from older to younger women, but as Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall commend your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts.”
God doesn’t just tell us through his Word that we are to be disciples and make disciples; we also see discipleship modeled in the scriptures. Jesus and Paul are the most prominent examples, but since our time is short, I will leave you to study those on your own.
Are you launching or revamping your women’s ministry? Do you struggle to get your women’s ministry team on the same page? My book, Rethinking Women’s Ministry: Biblical, Practical Tools for Cultivating a Flourishing Community, is designed to help women’s ministry leaders and team members prayerfully examine what’s working and what isn’t. As God highlights the areas that need rethinking, you’ll be able to form an action plan that will enable your team to reach more women more effectively and create a community that flourishes. You’ll find Rethinking Women’s Ministry on Amazon, your favorite online retailer, and at womensministrytoolboxshop.com.
I don’t know about you, but I love a good definition. Give me something succinct that incorporates all the critical pieces. I did some digging online, and I found several different definitions of discipleship. Please note that by sharing these definitions, I am not endorsing every author or website mentioned. Please vet each site thoroughly.
Definitions of Discipleship
Biblestudytools.com breaks discipleship into four points.
A disciple of Christ is one who:
- Believes His doctrine.
- Rests on His sacrifice.
- Imbibes His spirit
- Imitates his example.
Discipleshipdefined.com offers this one-sentence definition “Pouring into others, training them in Word, in Relationship, and in Ministry, so that they might develop as healthy believers who can walk by faith, share their faith and multiply their faith.”
Kandi Gallaty, in her book, Disciple Her, defines discipleship as “intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ.” (page 32) Side note: You can read my review of her book here.
Tony Evans defines discipleship as “that developmental process that progressively brings Christians from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity so that they are then able to reproduce the process with someone else.”
Are you starting to hear some repeated themes in these definitions?
Discipleship.org breaks it into four definitions.
- Disciple – someone who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus.
- Disciple making – entering into relationships to help people trust and follow Jesus, which includes the whole process from conversion through maturation and multiplication.
- Disciple maker– a disciple of Jesus who enters into relationships with people to help them trust and follow Jesus.
- Discipleship – the state of being a disciple.
All of those definitions center around believers growing and teaching others. Relationship is key in each one of those definitions. The goal of discipleship is becoming more like Christ.
What is the role of women’s ministry in discipleship?
That’s precisely what the series on discipleship will discuss. Discipleship in women’s ministry may encompass many things, including programs, workshops, events, and activities.
- We need to know how our church and our staff define discipleship. Operating from a different discipleship definition can cause confusion and frustration. We need to be working together in unity.
- We need to talk to the church staff to find out how we can best support and complement discipleship strategies in our church. Many churches have worked hard to develop a discipleship strategy, or they may not have one at all, and this would be a great discussion launcher.
If there’s a discipleship strategy or plan in place, we need to honor that work and not see it as competition to the things our women’s ministry offers.
We need to look for ways to support and complement what’s already happening in our church.
That might mean we encourage our women to participate in a small group or life group ministry. We might have to adjust our Bible study offerings and change to verse by verse studies instead of using topical studies, DVD-driven studies, or Bible study books as the primary tool. It could mean that we offer a mentoring program with an emphasis on studying God’s Word together. As we’ll discuss, there is no one size fits all solution.
Look back at Titus 2, the only scripture that gives specific instructions to women discipling women, we see that the older women are to teach that which is good – that would be God’s Word. Verses four and five go on to explain, they also train (don’t miss the emphasis on that) the young women to love their husbands and children to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands.
Titus 2 discipleship includes practical training and real life.
The discipleship training that your church offers may not include practical training or an emphasis on doing life together. This is an area where we may be able to provide additional resources to strengthen the discipleship efforts in our church.
Titus 2 discipleship is much more relational than a weekly meeting in a small group to discuss God’s Word. One might even call it mentoring. In the next blog post in our series, we’ll compare and contrast mentoring, discipleship, and Bible study.
At the end of every podcast and blog post, I offer at least one action item to help you move your ministry forward. I call them Toolbox Tasks.
Today’s Toolbox Tasks:
- Do some research and find out what definition of discipleship your church uses.
- Write down the plan for discipleship in your church. (You need to be able to share that with your team and communicate that to your women.)
- Make a list of ways that your women’s ministry currently encourages discipleship.
Thank you for listening to this episode of the Women’s Ministry Toolbox podcast. Leading in women’s ministry can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be! You’ll find support and ideas you can use in the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Community Facebook Group. We’d love for you to join us! Search for us on Facebook or visit womensministrytoolbox.com/groups to access the link. May the grace of God carry you through difficult ministry seasons, may He direct your steps as you seek to make Him known, and may your love for the LORD be apparent to every woman you serve.